come in all shapes and sizes. Some vegetarians choose their diet
because of ethical concerns, others for religious reasons, others
for the environment and still other vegetarians are thinking about
their health. The three major types of vegetarians include:
vegetarians don’t eat meat, fish or poultry, but
they do eat dairy and egg products.
- Lacto vegetarians avoid meat,
fish, poultry and eggs but continue to eat milk and dairy products.
- Vegans avoid all animal products: from meat, fish and poultry
to eggs and dairy.
A vegetarian diet can be beneficial to
your health, if you remember to balance your nutrients and compensate
for the vitamins
lost through the omission of meat. Because vegetarians tend
to avoid high-fat and high-cholesterol meat products, there is
the possibility for a lowered risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes,
some cancers and high blood pressure. The key to getting the most
benefits from a vegetarian diet is in remembering balance and compensation.
Going vegetarian doesn’t mean eating spaghetti without meatballs
and more salads. You’ll need to consider your options, substitute
your meat for nutrient and protein-containing alternatives and
eat extra legumes, vegetables and fruits.
By cutting out meat products,
you’ll also cut out some basic
and important nutrients from your diet. For each nutrient you lose
in a plant-based diet, there is an alternative. Sometimes, it will
take extra effort to find or prepare that alternative, but if you
want to be a healthy vegetarian, these alternatives will have to
become a natural part of your every day diet.
- Protein: Protein is the most obvious lost nutrient in
a vegetarian diet. Protein helps your tissues repair themselves;
builds your skin,
hair and nails; and it’s a vital element in the function
of your organs. The good news is that you can get the same amount
important protein in your diet by eating enough plant proteins.
These plant proteins have the right amount of essential amino
make up protein, but you’ll need to make sure you have
enough variety and an adequate amount in your diet. Plus, many
products are soy-based and contain adequate protein. You can
always get your protein from legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains
- Vitamin B-12: Many vegetarians know about protein, but
forget about B-12. And you can only get B-12 naturally from meat.
allows your body to produce red blood cells—a key to preventing
anemia. You can find an adequate source of vitamin B-12 in cereals
that have been fortified, some soy drinks and a supplement. Don’t overlook
B-12, especially as a woman, who is particularly at risk for
- Iron: Iron is similar to vitamin B-12 in that it is
a crucial component of red blood cells and prevents anemia. The
richest sources of iron
are red meat, liver and egg yolk. If you’re a vegetarian,
you see the potential here. In fact, most vegetarians have lower
levels than non-vegetarians. So, that means taking extra care
to include iron in your diet. Iron can be found in dried beans,
and dried fruits as well as enriched foods and supplements, if
necessary. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, so upping
your intake of
citrus, tomatoes, broccoli and cabbage while you eat iron sources
will improve your iron levels.
- Zinc: Zinc is present in most enzymes, and helps to
build up proteins. You need zinc for the basic functions of growth
You can find zinc in grains, nuts and legumes. If you eat shellfish,
you’ll get an excellent source of zinc. Soy products and
nuts also contain zinc. If you take a zinc supplement, make sure
less than 15 to 18 mcg. Too much zinc isn’t good for your
- Calcium: If you cut out dairy products, you are in
danger of low calcium intake, which can lead to osteoporosis
and other health
problems. Find meat substitutes enriched with calcium, eat broccoli, kale
and collard and learn about calcium supplements if you need to.
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